Envisioning and Creating a Safe Energy Future

Twenty-five years ago, I co-wrote a booklet about the risks of nuclear power and the prospects of clean energy. Published by Plutonium Free Future, The Safe Energy Handbook (1997) was translated into nine languages (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, French, Russian, Ukrainian, Slovenian, and Turkish) and distributed to global citizen activists resisting nuclear power. Now, in these times of growing climate chaos—with alarming signals that we will face ecological tipping points in our near-term future—this excerpt still resonates.

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FROM THE SAFE ENERGY HANDBOOK, by Jan Thomas, Claire Greensfelder & Wendy Oser (1997)

PHASE OUT FOSSIL FUELS

Burning fossil fuels releases huge quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. It is now widely recognized that our atmosphere simply will not be able to continue absorbing six billion tons of carbon every year (70% of it from burning fossil fuels) without disastrous consequences that will last for generations.

Scientists have been warning for decades about global warming, the process in which CO2 and other pollutants trap the sun’s heat and cause the temperature at the earth’s surface to rise. Over time, climate and seasonal cycles may be significantly disrupted. According to climate studies, average world temperatures have steadily risen since records began to be kept in 1880. As of 1997, five of the warmest years on record have occurred since 1987.

Global climate change could be a decisive factor affecting survival prospects for those who will follow us. 

POWER FOR THE FUTURE

Coal gave us the Industrial Revolution with its soot-covered cities, lung diseases, factories and coal mines. Oil brought us the Age of Combustion with automobiles, big highways, jet planes and the glorification of consumerism. Nuclear power has given us the Atomic Age and an enduring legacy of radioactive contamination and health problems. But renewable energies — the sun, wind and water — will bring us into the Solar Age and change our society in more favorable ways than we can yet imagine. 

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The Eco-Wisdom of Rachel Carson

Here are quotes from Rachel Carson, whose eco-wisdom has long inspired me. A founding force of the global environmental movement, her vision and impact stretched far beyond her era.

“Here and there awareness is growing that man, far from being the overlord of all creation, is himself part of nature, subject to the same cosmic forces that control all other life. Man’s future welfare and probably even his survival depend upon his learning to live in harmony, rather than in combat, with these forces.”

“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.”

“The human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery, not over nature but of ourselves.”

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